Friday, June 5, 2015

Goals and plans and summer and kids

Summer has arrived, and that means it's time for  . . . spreadsheets!!!

(Doesn't everyone start off the summer with a family meeting involving lists, calendars, and giant piles o' self-generated paperwork?)

Around the Miser Mom household, the kiddos have come to expect this sort of insane level of organization.  My own mom used to start us off each weekend with lists: my dad would make a fantastic Saturday brunch, and while we were eating, my mom would draw up the list of weekend chores, filling up a sheet (or two) of 8.5x11" paper in her elegant handwriting.  Over the course of the next two days, we'd all chip in, crossing items off the list as we finished them.  The list was awful/wonderful.  It was awful because it was full of chores.  It was wonderful because it was all there; you knew exactly what to do next, and you could see how close you were to being done.  After my mom died and my sisters and I reconvened to help Dad plan the memorial service, the first thing my sister did was draw up a list of household tasks that would get the place ready for the post-service reception.  We all gladly fell to working together, just like old times.

Although I don't start each weekend with a chore list, there are ways I've done my Mom one better.  My own summer spreadsheet has four or five categories (home tasks, once only; home tasks, repeated; garden; scholarly tasks; exercise).  I keep both an electronic version that I update year-to-year, and then I print out a specific year's version to share with the kids.

Late last night I pulled out the lists and the calendars and sat the boys down to map out the summer.   When I say "late last night", I mean 8 p.m. -- my brain starts to fry about 9 p.m., so this was my last mentally serviceable hour.  I chose this time so that I could bribe/threaten the boys into listening:  I cheerfully told them that if we couldn't finish planning before my brain fried, I'd just wake them up early to continue the discussion.

By the way, I have to say that this version of the bribe/threat has been my Hands-Down-Most-Successful summer parenting trick.  Ever.  The boys stay up way later than I do (theoretically, until 10:30, but actually, who knows???).  Do they make noise at night? They used to, but if they wake me up at night, I wake them up in the morning.  No more noise now. Do they leave a mess in the kitchen and living room?  They used to, but now if I wake up to a mess, I wake them up to clean it up, and so nowadays I arise to a tidy home.    Ergo, the bribe/threat of continuing the planning discussion in the morning was all that I needed to ensure we'd finish our planning session last night.

I was glad to see that, after several years of this ritual, the boys have come to appreciate the awful/wonderful dichotomy of lists.  I pulled out my spreadsheet and they grabbed for it, curious (in a semi-morbid way) about what was in store for them.  J-son asked about tasks I hadn't included on the list that he wanted to include, so I added those.  In the same way, we went through the summer calendar of trips and volunteer weeks and sports camps, noting when the boys would have open spaces for hanging with friends. N-son did a happy dance about his squash and tennis weeks.   J-son confidently pointed out weeks where he was sure his dad would take him boxing.  Afterwards, we put together a cooking plan and a grocery list.  By 9:00 p.m., just as my brain was beginning to mushify, J-son helped me prepare our latest box of CSA vegetables, and by 9:30 I was in bed.  The boys switched to quiet mode.

It's 8 a.m.; I've been up for two hours and the boys are still asleep.  Lovely.  Hello, summer!

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